At one point or another, we will all have to deal with some form of stress in our lives. For instance, a sudden trauma might occur that causes a person to feel the effects of stress, we might have to deal with a change in our personal or professional circumstances, and for others, stress can slowly build up over time.
In small doses, stress isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, it can help us to perform better when under pressure. It can also be a great motivator. However, if you are constantly feeling the pinch, then the stress will eventually start to take its toll on your brain and your body.
So, please read on to learn more about the emotional, physical, and mental impacts of stress; along with some practical things you can do to bring your nervous system back into balance if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.
What Are The Main Causes Of Stress?
To clarify, by no means is this list exhaustive; but some of the most common causes of stress are:
- Issues at Work
- Changing Jobs
- Separation and Divorce
- Moving Home
- Traumatic Event
- Emotional Problems – Anxiety, Depression, Low Self-Esteem
Regardless of where the stress stems from, it can have devastating effects on all areas of a person’s life. So, in the next sections, we aim to explore the different effects stress can have on an individual, both mentally and physically.
What Are The Mental Effects Of Stress?
Firstly, if a person is starting to feel the effects of stress, although they may feel periodically anxious, it doesn’t always mean they are depressed. On the other hand, prolonged stress can, indeed, lead to the development of depression. Additionally, stress can also significantly impact a person’s mood, along with causing cognitive issues, changes in one’s personality, and problem behaviors. Most importantly, these issues, whether or not they occur in isolation or together; can wreak havoc with relationships, job, and any social life or hobbies.
The knock-on effect of these secondary effects of stress can cause a person to withdraw from relationships, become isolated, and step-back from having everyday social interactions. What’s more, in a worst-case scenario, mustering up the motivation to do almost anything, even basic activities such as waking up on time, going to work, and eating can become a major challenge.
In summary, the mental effects of stress can be defined as, but not limited to:
- Cognitive Issues
- Development of Problem Behaviors
- Short Attention Span
- Lack of Contraction or Focus
- Anger or Irritability
- Low or Erratic Moods
- Personality Changes
- No Motivation or Drive
- Low Self Esteem
- Lack of Confidence
- Unable or Struggles to Perform Essential Daily Tasks
What are the physical effects of stress?
When a person is under too much stress, it can start to present in physical symptoms that can impact a body internally and externally. Because stress impacts the normal balance of hormones in the body, when these are knocked out of sync, it can cause major disruption. Acne, libido, dehydration, headaches, chronic pain, tiredness, and a lack of energy are all common physical symptoms of stress that are linked to hormonal changes.
We recently wrote about why Americans are the most stressed now than ever before. Here, we discuss two stress hormones; there are adrenaline and cortisol. Byproducts of these hormones can act as sedatives that can result in a person feeling overtired. With chronic stress, these byproducts can occur in large amounts, and they often result in a person feeling constantly tired or lacking in energy.
Because many of the physical impacts of stress are connected to everyday issues, such as having a cold, getting a headache, feeling tired, having achy muscles or changes to appetite; it’s very easy to shrug them off and put them to one side. However, if you do not try to manage the stress in your life, then it can have devastating effects on your physical wellbeing. Additionally, it can impact your ability to function normally and live a healthy productive life.
In summary, the physical effects of stress can be defined as, but not limited to:
- Muscle Tension
- High Blood Pressure
- Loss of Appetite
- Excessive Appetite
- Chest Pain
- Low Sex Drive
- Problems with Sleeping
- Panic Attacks
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Chronic Pain
- Lack of Energy
- Lower Immunity – More Colds and Sickness
- Stomach Upset
- Excessive Sweating
What can you do if you think you have a problem with stress?
Dealing with stress is a very personal experience. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that tells you exactly how to manage your stress. However, irrespective of the source of the stress, you need to find a way to get things under control; allowing you to function normally and move forward with your life.
Learning how to recognize the symptoms and signs of stress, along with taking various steps to reduce its effect is key.
#1 – Try to uncover the root cause of the issue quickly
Often, people will tend to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the early warning signs of stress. For instance, when you first start to become stressed, you might struggle to sleep, or you might be irritable or feeling low. Above all else, if something feels different, then try to recognize the problem and tackle it head-on. Generally speaking, ignorance will only exacerbate the issue.
#2 – Talk with someone about how you’re feeling
Firstly, it doesn’t have to be someone you are closely connected to in any way. In other words, there are lots of people and organizations who can simply lend an ear if you’re not happy opening up to a loved one about your problems. Above all else, simply getting it out of your internal system is key.
#3 – Consider meditation or mindfulness techniques
In short, you can get all the guidance you need from the comfort of your mobile device; because there are so many different apps which can help you get started with either of these. See this article about the best mindfulness apps for 2019 to discover which might be best for you.
#4 – Taking a break from it all
Consider taking some annual leave from your job or getting away somewhere for the weekend to help you clear your mind and refocus. After that, you will be able to return to your normal environment feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, moreover, you’ll have a much clearer mind.
To clarify, we have already spoken about the effects of stress on your hormones earlier in this post. However, you can counteract this effect by doing regular exercise. Subsequently, just 30 minutes per day can release essential endorphins into your system to help you rebalance things.
#6 Make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep
Ideally, you need to try and get between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. In addition to getting enough sleep, similarly important is getting regular sleep. However, if this is something you are struggling with, see our blog on the topic and get some useful tips for sleeping well.
#7 Try to externalize the issues
Overthinking and unproductive thinking are two prevalent behaviors that occur in people who are stressed. Consequently, taking the time to write things down and get them out of your system onto paper might prove to be exceptionally helpful. Sometimes, the simple act of writing things down will enable you to rationalize the challenges you are facing.
In conclusion, that age-old saying, ‘better out than in’ is so true where stress is concerned. For instance, if you tend to bottle things up, then this will usually put you on a slippery slope, and most likely, you will start to feel both the mental and physical effects of stress in your life.
Moreover, you should also consider the impact it might be having on those who are nearest and dearest to you. More often than not, they will want to support you in any way they possibly can.
In short, try to get things out in the open, write things down, open-up, and use the information we have provided to help steer you in the right direction.
Furthermore, if you are struggling to cope with stress, and a self-help approach isn’t working, you should always discuss matters with a medical professional who can help to give you a more personalized analysis of your situation.